Monasteries in Lahaul
This monastery is situated on a hill above the Tupchiling village at the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga. This gompa was founded by Padma Sambhava and is more than 800 years old. The peculiar feature of the gompa is the wooden idols as distinguished from the clay idols found in other monasteries. The Guru Ghantal white marble head was installed by its founder, but now the same is kept under lock and key for fear of theft. This monastery has idols of Guru Padma Sambhava, Brijeshwari Devi and several other lamas. On the 15th lunar day (mid June) a festival called Ghantal was celeberated at which the visiting lamas and Thakurs used to feast for one day. The festival is no longer celeberated.
There is one blackstone statue of a goddess identified as kali in theinnermost chamber which gives credence to the theory that this was once a Hindu temple like the Trilokinath temple at Udaipur.
The wall paintings are in stone colours. Because of lack of care colours have washed away. There is lot of seepage in the monastery. Another reason for lack of care is that most of the valuables have been transported to the Tupchiling gompa which is easily accessible and the caretaker also hails from this village only. The workmanship in the gompa is certainly superior to all other gompas.
Sha-shur in the local parlance means in the blue pines. This is very apt as good patches of blue pine can still be seen around the monastery.
This gompa was founded in the 17th C. AD by Lama Deva Gyatsho of Zangskar who was a missionary of Nawang Namgyal, the king of Bhutan. The lamas of the gompa are of the Drugpa sect (red hat sect). Namgyal founded this sect and the name originated from Dug which in the Bhoti language means Bhutan. Before Deva Gyatsho renovated the present monastery, there existed a small gompa. Deva Gyatsho stayed at the monastery till his death. When he was being cremated, this is said, his heart did not burn and was enclosed in a black image of Gyatsho. A statue of Namgyal is also present in the gompa.
This gompa has the biggest Thanka paintings, over fifteen feet, and invalueable wall paintings depicting all the 84 siddhas of Buddhism. In the month of June/July Chham is performed in the monastery which is the most popular Chham in Lahaul.
Village Kardang which was once the capital of Lahaul has the most popular and the biggest monastery of the area. The monastery is situated on the left bank of the river Bhaga just above the village of Kardang. This was founded about 900 years ago and stood in ruins uptill 1912 when Lama Norbu of Kardang renovated it. This gompa is located against the backdrop of the bare mountains of the Rangcha massif which “rises above the valley like a giant cobra standing on its tail with hood outspread, ready to strike”. The monastery is perched on a ridge below the 15000 feet high Rangcha peak. The valley is so placed that Kardang gets maximum sunshine in winters.
This monastery houses the largest number of lamas and chomos. The library of the gompa is one of the biggest containing full volumes of Kangyur and Tangyur. Since the monastery belongs to the Red Hat sect the regimen is not very strict. Nuns and monks enjoy equality. Lamas can marry and generally they stay with their families during summers to work in the fields. In winters they return to the gompa for meditation.
In the vicinity of the monastery is a silver coated Chhorten. The walls of the gompa are decorated with colourful wall paintings. The influence of Lama Gozzangwa is easily perceptible in the monastery as one can see a number of tantrik paintings and statues depicting a male and a female engaged in ecstatic union. The bhandarhas a large store of musical instruments, dresses, thankas and other such articles.
Its founder Lama Norbu died in 1952 and his mortal remains as also his silver Chaitya/stupa are preserved in the gompa.
In the Kardang village one can visit another small gompa of Lama Gozzangwa and outside the gompa can see rock carvings and two big Chhortens.
This gompa above the village of Satingri has the biggest statue of Padma Sambhava and his two manifestations as Singhmukha and Vajravarahi. The statue is 12 feet tall. This gompa houses full library of Kangyur. Thankas in the gompa depict various episodes from the life of Lord Buddha.
Tayul gompa written in Tibetan as Ta – Yul means chosen place. It is one of the oldest Dugpa sect monasteries in Lahaul. One Dugpa lama, Serzang Rinchen of Khan region of Tibet, founded this monastery in the beginning of the 17th C. There is a story about how this place was chosen for construction of a monastery. Lama Serzang while making the meritorious circumambulation of the holy peak Drilburi spotted a small glade in the juniper forest above Kyor and Tashikyang villages on the opposite side of the valley. He then told his fellow pilgrims, “Look, over there, that is a suitable and auspicious place for a gompa”. Thus the building of the gompa began to take shape. This monastery houses a hundred million mani wheel by turning which the minds of the sentient beings open to the compassion of the Lord. This mani wheel is reputed to be “self turning” on auspicious occasions. According to the lamas this wheel last turned on its own in 1986.
After almost a century a Ladakhi Tulku Tashi Tanphel of Tagna monastery renovated and extended the building of this gompa. He decorated the walls with murals, made stucco images of giant size referred to above and brought in the Narthang edition of the Kangyur from Tibet.
This hamlet is situated at a distance of 18 kms from Keylong. It has a gompa where in the month of July devil dance is enacted by the Lamas. The Thakurs of Gushal are now settled in this village on the right bank of the river Chandra. The place is easily accessible as it is on the Manali-Leh national highway.